Myanmar’s worsening conditions invite renewed ethnic conflict

A ceasefire in tatters, and a nation on the brink of civil war.

Tatmadaw propaganda outside Mandalay Palace January 15, 2014 Adam Jones

Myanmar’s armed forces, known as the Tatmadaw, launched a coup in February of 2021, deposing Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor of Myanmar. The military’s actions sparked outrage across the globe, and many saw events unfolding in Myanmar as an initial test of the United States’ renewed global participation. However, the situation in Myanmar has only worsened. A rapid escalation of violence has unfolded, with more and more incidents of soldiers executing protesting civilians and clampdowns on political freedoms.

Myanmar is a very divided nation, with many insurgent groups and militias. One of these groups, the Shan State Army, was attacked by the Tatmadaw during the coup, a violation of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement signed on October 15th.

Recently, General Yawd Serk of the Shan State Army has shown interest in intervening against the military government, citing concern over the continued killing of protestors. However, a military escalation by rebels cannot be taken lightly. A resurgence of ethnic militias fighting the military government will only add fuel to a growing fire. Opportunism by non-state actors could restart a civil war over the perceived goal of ‘keeping the peace’ in a destabilized region.

Currently, there are ten non-state signatures to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement. Hostilities have certainly not ceased, but conditions are better than they were previously. A return to a brutal ethnic war would displace millions of civilians, as years of fighting already have.

The alternative form of action, which the public has begun to call for, is forming a federal army. Such an army would not be tied to an ethnic struggle and could better resist the military government. However, the situation in Myanmar is bleak; there are few opportunities for self-determination, even as arms and support pour towards the military government from China. Neither should the western world jump to consider an intervention, as the only recently finished war in Afghanistan has proved.

Perhaps the world may offer economic support or use economic means to pressure the military government into stepping down. Finding a way for a federal army to be raised without inciting a civil war, though dangerous, could potentially help protect the lives of more civilians. Regardless of what occurs, the military cannot be allowed to consolidate its power.

Published by

Create a website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: